Telemarketing: The Ultimate Guide To Generate Thousands Of Qualified Leads

Want to learn how to generate thousands of qualified leads using telemarketing and other tactics? Here's your ultimate guide to do just that.

Telemarketing Lead Generation

If a cringe went up your spine when you read that title, I do apologize.

I know that, for most people, the mere mention of the phrase “telemarketing” generally conjures up memories of ringing phones, interrupted dinners, and one-sided conversations that go absolutely nowhere.

In truth, though, the practice of telemarketing isn’t inherently intrusive and annoying. In fact, when implemented correctly, telemarketing can lead to major gains for those on both ends of the telephone.

If you’re still a bit skeptical, I don’t blame you; it can be hard to see the opportunities telemarketing can provide your business when the phrase has held such an extremely negative connotation in your mind for most of your life.

That said, before you dive into this article, it’s important that you put aside any preconceived notions you may (justifiably) have regarding telemarketing, and come to understand that – as is the case with all other marketing initiatives – when done correctly, it can be an incredibly effective way to generate leads and drive sales.

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What, Exactly, Is Telemarketing?

Ready to approach telemarketing with a clean slate?

(This is the part where you play along and say, “Telemarketing? Never heard of it. What is it?”)

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Simply put, telemarketing is the act of contacting potential customers via telephone to accomplish a variety of marketing-related purposes, such as:

  • Creating brand awareness
  • Generating a buzz about your products or services
  • Educating potential clients with regard to the solution you offer
  • Collecting additional information about your prospective customer

As telemarketing is typically done during the initial stage of the buyer’s journey (or even before an individual has “officially” entered your sales funnel), the main overarching goal of this tactic is to identify qualified leads that are worth targeting with future marketing efforts.

To be sure, sales is also a part of telemarketing, too. Telesales, as it’s called, refers to the act of communicating with a prospect via telephone with the specific intent of making a sales pitch. While some entities often use both terms interchangeably, the fact is that telesales can be a part of an overall telemarketing strategy – but telemarketing does not necessarily refer to the act of selling over the phone.

(As a quick side note, you’re hopefully beginning to see that we were telling the truth: Telemarketing isn’t inherently about pushy sales reps trying to trick people out of their hard-earned cash; at its core, the goal of telemarketing is to provide as much value as possible to those most in need of your services.)

Who Should Use Telemarketing?

As with all marketing strategies and tactics, telemarketing isn’t for everyone.

At the same time, though, there’s not exactly a clear-cut answer to the question of what type of company should or should not include telemarketing within their overall marketing playbook.

Whether B2B or B2C, large or small, product- or service-oriented, commercial or non-profit…none of this matters nearly as much as whether or not you’re able to approach telemarketing strategically, and in a way that makes sense for your business.

(Keep this in mind for later, when we discuss best practices for telemarketing campaigns.)

Another incredibly important question to ask when determining whether or not your company should give telemarketing a shot:

Will your target customers be receptive to your telemarketing initiatives?

Needless to say, if the individuals within your target demographic aren’t the type to engage in consumer-related behavior over the phone, it won’t matter how strategic your approach to telemarketing is – it just isn’t going to be effective.

That said, when considering whether telemarketing is a viable option for your company, you should consider your target audience first, and then think about whether you have the capacity and bandwidth to add it to your overall marketing strategy.

Is Telemarketing Effective?

Going along with the previous section, the answer to the question “Is telemarketing effective?” is a resounding:

It depends.

As we talked about in the introduction, telemarketing done wrong isn’t just ineffective, but it also actively turns potential customers away from the company in question.

Done well, however – that is, in a way that makes the target individual immediately aware of the value the company brings to the table – telemarketing absolutely can be a viable, effective means of generating new business.

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Case in point, after surveying marketing and sales leaders from 200 companies, DiscoverOrg found that 55% of companies that experienced high growth over a three-year period (40% or more) suggested that cold calling and telemarketing is alive and well. On the other side of things, companies whose representatives said cold calling is obsolete experienced an average of 42% less growth than their competition.

Some of the overarching reasons telemarketing is still a viable option include:

  • It allows companies to immediately forge an authentic, human-to-human connection with potential customers.
  • It allows for the immediate exchange of information and knowledge in terms of the prospect’s needs and the company’s value to the prospect, as well as more transactional data (such as contact info).
  • It allows companies to get an immediate response from prospective customers, making it easier to know who to follow up with and who to pass over moving forward.

As far as the success rate of telemarketing goes, a report from OpenView finds that 9% of outbound cold calls lead to deeper marketing- or sales-related conversations, and that 23% of those conversations lead to confirmed appointments. Backing this up, The Bridge Group reports that an average of 3.3% of cold calls typically lead to the acquisition of a qualified lead.

Now, while these numbers admittedly sound a bit dreary, keep in mind that they refer to instances of absolute cold calling, in which the marketing or sales rep making the call knows next to nothing about the individual they’re contacting. Again, keep this in mind as we go through the remainder of this article.

Generating Leads Via Telemarketing Initiatives

If you plan on going the 100% stone-cold calling route, in which you begin reaching out to individuals who have likely never heard of your product or service (or your company, for that matter) before, there are a number of things you can do to enhance your chances of success.

In this section, we’ll briefly go over some of the best practices to implement throughout your cold-calling initiative.

Have Clear-Cut Goals for Your Calls

As we said earlier, despite the common association people make between telemarketing and sales calls, cold calls don’t necessarily have to end in a closed sale in order to be considered successful.

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(In fact, the probability of generating a sale from an initial conversation with a cold lead is probably about the same as the probability of finding a unicorn in your shower tomorrow morning…)

Anyway, the point is that you should know exactly what you hope to accomplish before you begin reaching out to potential customers via cold calling. For example, are you simply looking to gauge interest within a certain demographic with regard to your services? Or are you aiming to spread awareness of your brand? Perhaps you are looking to quickly present an offer and dive into “sales mode” – or maybe you just want to plant an initial seed in your customer’s mind.

Whatever the case may be, it’s essential that you define this goal ahead of time so that you can plan out how you’d like the coming conversation to go.

Create a Blueprint for the Conversation

Speaking of planning out the conversation to be had, you’ll want to create an outline of sorts to help keep the dialogue moving toward your previously-defined goal.

Now, this isn’t to say you need to create a script and stick to it with the rigidity of an architectural blueprint. Needless to say, this would cause you to sound rather robotic from your prospect’s perspective – essentially negating the purpose of reaching out on the telephone altogether.

However, you do want to create a document that hits on certain points that you absolutely need your potential customer to know about your product or service. Additionally, you’ll want to have prepared certain talking points in anticipation of contingencies within the conversation (such as a question or comment the prospective customer may ask).

All this said, your cold-calling blueprint should allow you to:

  • Focus on the goal you’ve set for the conversation
  • Ensure you touch on each of the main points you aim to make throughout the conversation
  • Allow for flexibility based on the prospect’s side of the conversation (while also allowing you a means of getting back on track)

(A quick note: This might be getting a bit ahead of ourselves, here, but knowing as much as you can about an individual before contacting them can certainly enable you to anticipate where a conversation with said individual will lead. In turn, you can brainstorm a number of talking points related to your product or service before reaching out to a prospect in an effort to personalize the conversation a bit more.)

Get to the Point

The nature of cold calling is such that neither party knows all that much about the person on the other line. Moreover, aside from the business at hand, neither side likely cares all that much about the other’s personal life.

Point being:

Avoid wasting time on small-talk when making cold calls. Yes, it’s snowing in Minnesota again; yes, the Knicks are terrible and will be forever; yes, it’s a busy time of year for everyone (no matter what time of year it is).

Who. Cares.

You didn’t call your prospect and interrupt them from whatever they were doing to trade platitudes (if you did, you’re certainly not going to leave a good taste in their mouth).

You called them up to talk business. You have something of value to offer them, and you need to make that clear as quickly as possible.

It may sound counterintuitive at first, but it makes perfect sense: By getting right to the point (rather than trading niceties), you’re showing your prospective customer that you truly care about them, in that you appreciate their taking the time to answer your call and are prepared to hit them with value without beating around the bush.

Another piece of advice that may sound counterintuitive, here, is to avoid asking questions along the lines of “Do you have a minute to chat?” Reason being: it gives the person on the other end an easy way out of the conversation. While you certainly want to respect their wishes if they say, flat out, that they aren’t interested, your best bet is to, again, skip the formalities and dive right into the conversation.

Hammer Out the Logistics

As with all marketing initiatives, you absolutely need to have a handle on how much time, money, and manpower your telemarketing campaign will cost your company.

As we alluded to earlier, a blank-slate approach to cold calling, in which you cast a wide net in the hopes of catching a few lunkers, is quite labor intensive. While larger companies that sell high-end products or services might be able to afford to operate in this manner, smaller companies with fewer staff members – and less spending room – might need to think twice about how they go about their telemarketing campaigns.

(Note: This isn’t to say telemarketing is completely off the table for such companies; we’ll get into that in a bit.)

Another logistical point worth noting is the timing of your cold calls – both in terms of the time of day, as well as the day of the week or month in which you make said calls.

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As we said in the intro, one of the reasons telemarketing gets such a bad rap is because such calls always seem to come through at the most inopportune times (e.g., right when a family is sitting down to dinner, during the busiest hour of their workday, etc.).

That said, at the very least, if you know absolutely nothing else about the individuals you plan on reaching out to, you should definitely know when they’ll be most receptive to your call.

Fine-Tune Your Approach

While this also applies to all marketing initiatives, it’s especially worth discussing with regard to telemarketing.

As we said earlier, cold calling isn’t dead – and those who think it is are missing out on major gains. Unfortunately, it’s often the case that companies give telemarketing a shot – only to give up after things don’t immediately pan out.

According to data collected by Marketing Donut, it takes an average five follow-ups to make headway with regard to sales calls. Still, the vast majority of salespeople give up well before this five-touchpoint mark.

While this data, of course, relates to individual sales attempts, for our purposes it stands to reason that those who give up tend to think that “cold calling is dead” – making the companies these individuals belong to more likely to move on to a different marketing initiative.

Rather than jumping ship immediately, though, it can benefit you to take a deeper look at specific parts of your telemarketing campaign, including:

  • What is and isn’t working overall
  • Who is and isn’t receptive to your phone calls
  • Which goals you are or aren’t meeting

Truth be told, no matter what tactic you’re utilizing, your ability to find success relies more on your persistence and ability to adapt than on your ability to find a “magic bullet.”

While you may have to go “back to the drawing board,” so to speak, that doesn’t mean you should start completely from scratch. As you begin to see results from your telemarketing campaigns – whether positive or negative – always use what you’ve learned to make the necessary improvements moving forward.

How and Why to Generate Leads Without Telemarketing

If you’ve made it to this point in this article, and are still on the fence with regard to telemarketing:

That’s totally okay. Like we said before, telemarketing isn’t a viable option for everyone.

First of all, telemarketing is incredibly time- and resource-consuming. While we hate to refer to any strategic marketing plan as a “numbers game,” the wide-net approach to straight cold calling is essentially just that. As we discussed earlier on in this article, you’ll need to reach out to thousands of individuals in order to generate a few dozen qualified leads – and an even smaller number of customers.

Along with this, since you inherently don’t know much (or anything at all) about the people you’ll be targeting, telemarketing is basically “hit or miss.” While, as we said earlier, telemarketing allows you to quickly identify which targets are interested – and which are not – the nature of cold calling doesn’t provide you with an opportunity to try and change people’s mind if their initial response is a “no.”

At any rate, there are a bunch of other effective ways you can go about generating new leads for your business. Moreover, you can use these tactics to generate qualified leads – a stark contrast to the “cold” nature of telemarketing we discussed earlier.

Without further ado, then, let’s take a look at some lead-generation strategies and tactics that might be a better fit for your organization’s current situation.

(NOTE: Fieldboom can help you reach out to, engage with and qualify brand new leads using powerful lead scoring rules and beautiful lead forms, quizzes or surveys – no matter which industry you operate in.)

Create Lead Quizzes

Lead quizzes are an incredibly effective way to not just generate new leads, but to also gather a decent amount of preliminary information on these leads right from the get-go. By eliciting this information up front, you’ll be able to immediately provide value to your new leads in the form of product or service recommendations, tailored content, and other personalized offers.

Here’s a sample lead quiz for an e-commerce store that sells body scrubs:

 

Because of the interactive and personalized nature of lead quizzes, they tend to be much more effective than your typical landing page/lead capture form (although these can be used to success, as well!). Using lead quizzes, though, you potentially stand to gain an incredible 248% more leads than you would with a static landing page.

Want to see lead quizzes in action? Check out the following examples:

  • Which Scrub Will Cure You?: This quiz asks visitors to simply provide their age and gender, and to answer a multiple choice question regarding the skin problem they’re currently facing. Depending on the individual’s responses to these prompts, the quiz will provide them with a recommended product that will best fit their needs.
  • Let’s Turn You Into a PGA Pro: This quiz asks visitors how long they’ve been playing golf, and asks them to rate their swing, as well as their short game, on a scale of 1-10. It also asks whether they prefer in-person lessons or instructional videos. After collecting this information, the quiz links (get it?) the individual to a service provider that meets their needs and expectations.
  • Help Us Help You: This quiz, tailored to entrepreneurs and new business owners, asks probing questions regarding the visitor’s business-related needs. The quiz asks if they’re looking for help with one of four marketing strategies (content marketing, SEO, Adwords, or Facebook Ads), and follows that up with a question regarding their monthly budget, and how soon they’ll be ready to get started. Depending on the individual’s responses, they’ll then be provided with a resource that will help prepare them for the next steps in their venture.

You can create a lead quiz in under 10 minutes using Fieldboom.

Again, not only do lead quizzes allow marketers to immediately and automatically provide valuable suggestions to those who complete the forms, but this method also allows them (marketers) to collect the contact information of these individuals, as well. In turn, they can implement warm calling soon after in order to provide further value to the newly-collected lead.

Survey Your Competitors’ Customers

What better way is there to find qualified leads than to check out your competitors’ current customer bases?

While satisfied customers aren’t exactly likely to jump ship, your competitors’ unsatisfied customers might be actively looking for an organization that provides similar – but better – services. Regarding these individuals, getting your brand in front of their eyes at just the right time can be an incredibly effective way to grow your own customer base with minimal friction.

A great way to do this is to create Facebook ads that target these individuals, specifically. While you can’t target these individuals based on the fact that they’re fans of a certain page (e.g., you can’t create Facebook ads that target people who ‘like’ Chick-fil-A’s official Facebook page), you can target individuals based on their interests:

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(Source / Caption: The upside to this is you can find additional competing brands to use as targets, as well.)

Within these ads, you can point the targeted individual toward a survey or web form in which you solicit information regarding their experiences with a certain brand (or, perhaps, an overarching industry). And, of course, you’ll also collect their contact information, as well – enabling you to reach out to these individuals with offers that go above and beyond what your competitors have provided in the past.

You can survey your competitor’s customers and learn exactly why they’re unsatisfied using Fieldboom.

Survey Your Prospects (Instead of Sending Cold Emails)

If you’ve collected a list of prospective customers from an outside source (such as a business directory like Crunchbase), your first inclination might be to create a cold email via template and send it out to each of them in a quick blast.

While this is certainly a viable option, you might want to try taking a slightly different approach, here: Instead of sending a cold email in the same exact format used by countless other businesses, send out a survey to your prospective customers.

Within this email, you can quickly introduce yourself, your company, and the services you provide – and then shift the focus onto your target’s needs. The survey you include (either within the body of the email or within a link) should include questions regarding the major issues your targets face in their industry (or their life, as the case may be), solutions they’ve tried in the past, and their interest in the products or services your company provides. You’ll also want to provide respondents with an opportunity to supply you with more specific contact information, such as their phone number and their availability.

Now, not everyone who receives your survey will want to take it upon themselves to fill it out without getting anything in return. That said, you’ll want to provide an incentive of some sort to those who complete the survey in full. This doesn’t have to be anything major, though; a free ebook or a discount on their first purchase could do the trick.

As an added bonus for you, providing this incentive allows you to showcase your expertise or your product’s/service’s value to these potential customers immediately.

You can survey your customers by creating a beautiful and insightful feedback survey with Fieldboom.

Partner with Service Providers That Complement Your Business

In addition to targeting your competitors’ existing customer bases, you also stand to gain a ton of business by checking out the customer bases of companies that provide ancillary services to that which you offer.

Since complementary services aren’t in competition with one another, there’s no need for you to “spy” on the other, or to “poach” their customers. Rather, you can actively reach out to these organizations to forge a mutually-beneficial partnership, in which you exchange customer information with one another.

For example, a web host provider might work with a marketing agency to swap information on their respective customers, since those who utilize one of these services is likely to be interested in what the other has to offer.

You can also take this tactic a step further by actually working with a complementary service provider to create a joint service offering – and use it to generate new leads together. PPC agency Klientboost used this tactic to incredible success, partnering with call-tracking company Invoca to create an ebook focused on generating leads via Google Adwords.

Of course, not every individual within a complementary company’s customer base will be a prime target for your organization. Still, those that are will have already been qualified based on the information you’ve collected on them before you’ve even actually gotten in touch with them.

Go to Local Meetups

Within your community – or at least the surrounding area – there’s bound to be workshops, conferences, and similar events being held from time to time in which you can connect with others in and around your industry.

Just as when joining up with complementary companies, you want to use these opportunities to generate referrals and fill your contact list with pre-qualified leads. You also might forge connections with individuals from other companies that could lead to mutually-beneficial relationships, just as we mentioned in the previous section.

While you can certainly find information on such events via your local community center, college campus, and other physical locations, you also want to check out Meetup.com. In addition to discovering new and exciting events taking place in the surrounding area through this service, you can also use it to create your own events, as well. In turn, you can provide both service providers and consumers within your industry a means to connect and engage with one another – and generate a massive amount of qualified leads in the process.

Use Drip Email Campaigns

Going back to the hypothetical situation in which you’ve developed a mailing list but have yet to really do anything with it, you might consider developing an email drip campaign to engage your new audience.

Typically, email drip campaigns work as a way to help new leads “wade into” their experience with your services. With drip campaigns, you create a sequence of messages to be sent to your new leads over the course of a specified number of days (usually about 5-7, but sometimes more). Within each email, you can dig deeper into how, exactly, your services can provide value to the recipient in question – culminating with a request for the individual to engage further with your brand.

We’ve previously shared our entire drip email campaign strategy that we use to get a 54% open rate on our emails – and that’s only possible because we’ve invested the time to create a compelling and personalized drip email campaign for people who join our email list.

Email drip campaigns can follow a variety of structures, such as:

  • A series of educational emails
  • A series of offers and/or discounts for introductory services
  • An onboarding sequence leading trial users through the initial steps of your service

Here’s a hypothetical example of a three-email drip campaign created by Hubspot:

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Needless to say, those who open and engage with each of the emails within one of your drip campaign will almost certainly be interested in moving forward, perhaps as paying customers. But you also want to pay attention to those whose engagement dropped off (either immediately or over the course of the campaign), perhaps choosing to reach out to them to see if there’s any way you can be of service to them.

And, even if you get absolutely no engagement from certain recipients of your drip campaign, you’ll at least know that it’s not really worth investing more time and effort trying to reach out to these uninterested individuals.

Create an Email Course

Similarly to developing drip campaigns to send to prospective customers, you might also decide to develop a fully fleshed-out educational course to be sent to your mailing list.

Email courses typically serve as an introduction to a company’s products or services, providing the prerequisite information a new customer will need to immediately begin using the product or service in question. In essence, email courses such as this are meant to enhance an individual’s interest in a given product or service, and to prime them to become power users right from the get-go.

In similar fashion, some companies use email courses as a sort of “lite” offering of their full services. For example, freelance writer Jorden Roper sent out the the following six-lesson email course to her followers:

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Notice that each email covers a different topic relating to growing an audience and gaining visibility, and that Jorden wraps the course up with an ask to sign up for her VIP (read: paid) course, which promises to provide much more information than she gave away through the email campaign.

By creating an email course based around your product or service, you essentially prepare your leads to “take the plunge” and convert to paying customers. Because they’ll be a bit more knowledgeable about what you have to offer – and the value they’ll get out of using what you have to offer – they’ll be that much more likely to take a chance on your paid services.

Include Contextual Calls to Action in Your Blog Posts

In keeping with the theme of engaging qualified leads by providing value to your audience, you’ll also want to point them toward your paid services as they peruse your blog and other such content on your website.

The key word, here, is context. While you certainly do want to showcase your paid services to your blog’s audience members, you don’t want to do so in a way that detracts from their experience with your blog in the first place. In other words, you don’t want your CTA to be so out of place that it interrupts your reader and causes them to become disengaged.

Rather, you’d want to include a CTA only if it truly belongs in the space you include it, and it provides added value to the reader’s experience. A good way to think about it: Would you include the link if it wasn’t promoting your services? If not, you’ll want to find a better spot for it within the article (if you choose to include it, at all).

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Here’s how Leadfeeder includes a CTA in one of their blog posts.

All that said, if the CTA does fit within the context of the topic at hand and clicking on it will enhance the individual’s experience with your company, by all means include it. After all, the goal of content marketing isn’t just to provide value to your readers free of charge; it’s to do so in the hopes that they take further steps toward conversion.

Include “Request Demo” CTAs in Your Site’s Header or Menu

Real quick, take a quick look at the top of your browser window right now.

Of course we’re going to practice what we preach, here!

Like we just discussed, the inward-facing reason you provide such valuable and educational content on your website is to generate engagement and facilitate conversions.

With that in mind, you’ll want to take advantage of every opportunity you have to point your readers toward your paid services. So, in addition to including well-placed calls to action within your site’s content, you also want to include a static CTA at the top of each of your web pages.

Now, like with the contextual CTAs we mentioned in the previous section, you don’t want your header to be intrusive. If it blocks the content of the web page your reader is trying to check out, it’ll almost certainly do more harm than good. That said, you also don’t want it to “blend in” so much that it gets ignored, either. Simply put: create your header in such a way that it truly looks like it belongs where it appears on your website.

Also, be sure to point your audience exactly where the header says they’ll be pointed. For example, if your header’s CTA is something along the lines of “Need further assistance? Don’t hesitate to contact us,” you absolutely need to provide a link to your contact page within the header (rather than, say, to your site’s main page).

For even more lead-generating tactics and strategies, check out this post on our blog.

Wrapping Up

The two most important lessons to take away from this article:

Telemarketing isn’t necessarily dead – not by a longshot. If you have the means to develop a fully fleshed-out telemarketing strategy, and are willing to play the long-game needed to find success through this method, it’s certainly worth giving a shot.

However, by today’s standards, there are a ton of more effective (and cost-effective) means of finding and engaging with qualified leads and potential customers. Depending on your company’s current situation, the strategies mentioned above might prove to be the better option.

All this said, you also don’t need to pick and choose just one of these strategies, either; in fact, you absolutely should use more than one of them – and more. By diversifying the manner in which you hunt down and target qualified leads, you’ll be in great position to determine which methods work best for your company – and can focus on continually improving your efforts via these channels.

Fieldboom can help you reach out to, engage with and qualify brand new leads using powerful lead scoring rules and beautiful lead forms, quizzes or surveys – no matter which industry you operate in.

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Matt is one of the brilliantly gifted content contributors at Fieldboom. He helps us whip up useful and interesting blog posts, guides and more.